If you're a living, breathing human being with a heartbeat, a pulse, and working set of lungs and are reading this post right now, I would wager that you — or someone you know — are active on social media. I mean, it's 2023. At any given time, there are almost 5 billion people buzzing around on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, TikTok, and the like. Even the senior citizen demographic continues to overwhelmingly invade and infiltrate, er grow, on Facebook (11.3 million users aged 65 and above.) I remember a time when most "old people" scoffed at the notion of scrolling mindlessly through a Newsfeed full of random content. Now, you have to shout grandma's name across the room three times because she's distracted by the comment that she's leaving on the photo of her high school bestie who she hasn't seen in 100 years.
Social media has evolved a lot over the last decade or so (groups, events, ads, etc.), and it's clear that it's quickly become one of the most powerful tools for the Local Church to utilize in staying connected to its community and taking the Gospel to that community. But, like any good tool, it has to be used correctly. Unfortunately, most churches create their social media platform(s), fill out a little info, and then just let the platforms float in the vastness of cyberspace.
This isn't exactly the most effective strategy. It's sort of like having a really expensive tool hanging inside your garage, but never putting it to good use, even when it's needed. Why would you do that? Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram won't cost you a penny to use. And there's an entire world of people (literally) on each one. How can you possibly ignore that?
Whether you're a new church plant, an ancient religious dynasty, a modern megachurch with all the latest tech and toys, or a small rural church in the country just trying to figure things out, social media has a lot to offer your ministry efforts. With all of this in mind, I thought it might be helpful to throw together some tips, pointers, and suggestions on how to use it more effectively:
#1. Choose Your Platforms Wisely.
As many of you know, I primarily work within the small church communications and revitalization space. Because of this, I talk to a lot of small church pastors (and small church comms volunteers) who feel like their church should be on "all the cool and popular" social media sites. No. Stop it. Don't inflict pressure on yourself to be everywhere. Also, don't be intimidated by that megachurch in your town. Remember, they've got the time, money, resources, management oversight, administration ingenuity, and people resources to assemble, pay, and supervise an entire team of digital media content creators and social media managers throughout the week. Your church might just be lucky to pay the light bill every month. Don't overcomplicate or overthink this. Digitally speaking, you don't have to be everywhere at once and you sure as heck don't have to — or need to — compete with the megachurch around the corner. Instead, pick one platform (I recommend Facebook) and manage it with excellence. Do that and let God handle the rest.
There's a reason that they call it "social" media. It's built for conversations and connectivity. In fact, it's literally the entire point. So make sure that your church's Page or account responds to people who leave comments or send direct messages. Respond just as often as you post content. Conversations don't work well when only one person is doing all of the talking. It sort of defeats the purpose. Even worse, the other person might get the idea that you don't care or that they are not important enough to be heard. You would hate for this to be the case when it comes to your church. Always be sure to respond to your followers when they leave comments on Facebook and Instagram or when they reply to a tweet over on Twitter. I can't stress the importance of this, particularly when it might be someone who is considering coming to your church in-person for the first time. They may be testing the waters to see if any of your social media platforms will respond and show a level of care and concern.
On the flip side, it's also up to you as the Page administrator or account manager to create and foster engagement. This means posting content that causes people to want to leave comments and have conversations in the first place. It could literally be something as simple as a Facebook post like, "What was your favorite part of the sermon today?" Or even, "What was your favorite song this morning? Drop a comment below!" Utilize Facebook's background color feature (and preferably select a color that matches your logo) in order to catch people's attention in the Newsfeed. This isn't rocket science. It's actually common sense when you think about it.
#3. Have Fun. Be Funny.
I can practically hear the gasps echoing through the computer screens now. Whoever said Christianity had to be boring? I believe Jesus has a great sense of humor. He probably messed with the disciples all the time. And then there's God the Father. How can you create something like a platypus, a blob fish, or a proboscis monkey and not laugh about it or at least crack a smile? Use tasteful humor on your church's social media platforms and I promise you'll see engagement. Don't be afraid to post a good Bible joke every once in a while, a biblical meme, a clip from a Christian comedian, or a funny graphic that ties into your pastor's last sermon. Heck, you might even make fun of your pastor if the opportunity presents itself. Have fun, but don't go too crazy. Take what you do seriously, but don't take yourself too seriously. And if you get fired, you've never heard of me.
#4. Be Cool.
This is different. What I mean here is simply, "Don't be overly cheesy." As much as it's important to have fun, it's also important that your content, engagement responses, graphic design, etc. all still be professional and remain in keeping with the latest trends and standards. Become a student of church communications and digital and social media management and you will excel at what you do. And, even more important, people will notice and they will continue to return to your platforms and interact with the content that you post.
#5. Stop Using Insider Code Words. Seriously. Just Knock It Off.
Hi, we would like to invite you all to our Small-Home-Life-Transformation Group this weekend where, Lord-willing, Pastor Bob will feel led by the Holy Spirit to bring an anointed Word of Truth centered on carrying your cross through the resurrection power of the Holy One of Israel, Son of El Shaddai, while avoiding the scoffers and mockers of the Last Days who follow their own evil lusts and cast their pearls before swine. See you there!
This happens all the time and, in case you can't tell, it really grinds my gears. (Translation: It annoys me.) There are a whole lot of "church idioms" and "church culture" phrases. Sadly, we throw them around constantly, even on our social media platforms, without giving them a second thought. I can be just as guilty. But, we have to remember that these things are not used in everyday conversation for the average church-seeker, potential visitor, and especially the nonbeliever. It can be easy as Christians to use these words and phrases because we understand the context behind them. However, this won't be the case for much of your community. Utilize and implement language that is inclusive, friendly, casual, warm, welcoming, and easy to understand.
#6. Maintain Attractive and Inviting Pages and Profiles.
I say it all the time, but it's true: We're living in the most visual generation in history. Also, people are visual before they are verbal. If you want them to engage with your church's Facebook Page, Twitter profile, or Instagram, you need to post well-designed, clean, neat, and professional content. This means having someone on staff or on your volunteer team who has an eye for graphic design. Ideally, this person should be the one generating the visual content. If you're a small church and this seems out of reach for you, consider bringing in an outsider to do some training and coaching. (Hint: This page might help you out.)
#7. Tell Stories and Be Authentic.
Stories are some of the best forms of content that you can post to your church's social media platforms. Video content has shown to be the most engaging, but even quality photography combined with text can do the trick. There's a reason that ancient parables, urban legends, and mythological folklore never cease to die. As human beings, we love to tell stories. We love to hear them and to hang onto the really good ones. It's in our nature. Anyone with a recent smartphone and solid writing skills can tackle this for church social media. Examples include personal testimonies from church members, ministry spotlights, mission trip highlights, local community involvement, staff or volunteer team features, etc. The possibilities are almost endless here. Be creative.
#8. Incorporate Prayer.
Technically this is a part of engagement, but I would be remiss if I didn't give "Social Media Prayer" its own category. You would be shocked at the level of responses and interaction you'll see on your church's platforms if you simply post the following question: "How can we be praying for you today?" People will leave sincere prayer requests and then it's up to you, as the page or account administrator, to respond to at least the first few. I strongly suggest and recommend that you take five or ten minutes and literally type out a prayer that is specific to each person's need or request. If all goes well, before you know it, you'll see people jumping into the the threads and praying for one another as well. You're literally ministering to and encouraging your church through and on social media. It's an incredible thing to behold and to be a part of when it happens.
The question today is not whether your church should be on social media. That's a no-brainer. The question is how well you will choose to manage it and how effective your platform(s) will be on a daily basis. Set goals, drive hard toward engagement, ministry, encouragement, and outreach, and Gospel-centeredness.
Do you have any church social media suggestions, tips, or strategies you would like to share? I've really only scratched the surface with these eight tips. We could easily go on all day. I'd love to hear from you! Drop a comment below!